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Philly GOP takes on one of its own

Councilman David Oh and his party are at odds over the "resign-to-run" rule.

David Oh. (Akira Suwa / Staff Photographer)
David Oh. (Akira Suwa / Staff Photographer)Read more

THE PHILADELPHIA Republican Party is fighting one of its own over a proposal that would soften the city's "resign to run" rule that forces elected officials to quit before running for new offices.

Councilman David Oh, one of the GOP's three members on City Council, is pushing a ballot question before voters in next month's primary that would allow officials to run for some offices without resigning. His party's ward leaders, however, voted overwhelmingly to oppose the measure.

In a strange exchange, Oh and his own party duked it out on Twitter earlier this week, with @PhillyGOP writing, "corruption, cronyism, wage tax, storm water charge, BIRT hurt our City. Pretty sure resign to run doesn't crack top 50."

Oh responded: " 'Resign to run' lessens our voice in all matters where we need support and cooperation from Harrisburg including public education." He cited groups that have endorsed the measure, including the good-government nonprofit Committee of Seventy, which is led by former Daily News editor Zack Stalberg.

Oh called Stalberg and others "highly respected public interest experts." @PhillyGOP, however, had a different take: "so we are relying on Zack Stalberg to dictate policy?"

Joe DeFelice, the party's executive director and the man behind that Twitter account, put out a press release yesterday that said "City Council wants to change [the rule] so they can campaign for a different office while the taxpayers are paying them to do their job."

DeFelice added in an interview that it's "not an anti-David thing" and that he likes the Councilman's recent proposals on other issues, like wage-tax reductions and pension reform.

None of Council's Republicans - Oh, Denny O'Brien or Brian O'Neill - attended the ward leaders meeting. All three voted to put Oh's question on the ballot in the May primary.

If approved, the measure will amend the Home Rule Charter to allow elected officials to run for other offices without resigning.

But there are limits: The policy won't change until 2016, so it won't impact the 2015 mayor's race; and candidates will still be barred from running in two different races at the same time. The primary effect of the latter provision is that Council members won't be able to simultaneously run for re-election and for mayor.

Oh, who did not respond to a request for comment, has said he hopes the change will increase the city's clout in Harrisburg, because its top-tier politicians will be able to run for the state General Assembly and for governor without giving up their jobs.

Voters rejected a more expansive ballot question on the same issue in 2007.

Mayor Nutter, who resigned his Council seat to run for the top job, opposes it. Council approved the ballot question unanimously.